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York, PA -

He just may be the most anticipated varsity wrestler in the entire state.

One of the most intriguing in the nation, actually.

There certainly is a lot of buzz -- and some lofty expectations -- surrounding freshman Chance Marsteller, the story even more enticing because he'll be starring at Kennard-Dale, a school with nearly no wrestling tradition.

But for the past two years, Marsteller has repeatedly beaten some of the best competition across the country in tournaments and festivals.

Each opponent always older and more experienced.

Now, though, the matches will count in a different way for the 15 year old. Starting with this weekend's season-opening tournament at LaSalle High in Philadelphia, each match will be a stepping stone to the individual state title he longs for as a ninth-grader.

And to help his Rams grown into a team power in their own right.

How highly is he regarded?

The Pa. Power Rankings list him as the No. 1 high school wrestler in the state at 152 pounds in Class AAA, the highest qualification. He is followed by a junior and three seniors.

Consider that TheOpenMat.com, a national wrestling website, ranks Marsteller at No. 3 nationally at 152, two seniors in front of him, three behind.

InterMat Wrestling, another national wrestling source, ranks him at No. 8 in the country.

All of this without wrestling a varsity match.

Kennard-Dale's opening dual meet of the season is Tuesday at Dallastown.

"I'm anxious because I've wrestled high school matches since seventh grade, but this is the PIAA," Marsteller said. "It's real now. Before it was like, 'He lost to a senior, but he's in eighth grade, so it's understandable.'

"But it's not understandable anymore. There are no excuses to lose to anyone older."

Marsteller's summer was highlighted by a freestyle title at the USA Wrestling Cadet and Junior National Championships in Fargo, N.D.

Could he be the next one to take a run at Joey Wildasin's records from 20 years ago? The South Western grad was the most successful wrestler in YAIAA history, winning three state titles and losing in the state title match as a freshman.

"The biggest concern for a coach is if he's able to handle the pressure that comes with (those rankings)," said Bermudian Springs coach Dave McCollum. "It seems like he will, especially because he has a love for the sport. Guys like that, their fun comes with winning. Those guys are special."

Only one other freshman in the state, Canon-McMillan's Dalton Macri, is ranked No. 1. But he's at 103 pounds, the place where most young kids cut their teeth.

Rather, Marsteller is debuting in the middle weights stacked with upperclassmen.

"I feel fine. I don't really feel pressure ...," he said. "I'll go out there and do my own thing and try not to look at those (rankings)."

Plus, starting his varsity career means thinking about a bigger picture, too.

"This is a team, and it's not just Chance, and he knows that," said Kennard-Dale coach Mike Balestrini. "And that's the way we're going to keep it."

Said Marsteller: "I'm looking out for myself to win a state title, but I'm also looking for my team to try and build a state champion.

"Our kids have the potential to be state material."
fbodani@ydr.com; 771-2104

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